Updated: Sep 5, 2020
The twelfth installment of my series looking at each driver who competed at Brands Hatch in the 2002 season opening round at Brands Hatch.
For my next feature I am going to look at every driver who started my first ever British Touring Car Championship race and what they have achieved in their careers, both before and after.
As some of you may know, my first BTCC race was on the 30th March 2002 when my Dad and I went to the “Super Sunday” event at Brands Hatch, in which the touring cars were joined by the British GT championship as well as Formula 3.
I was only seven when I attended and immediately fell in love with touring cars, a passion which has failed to die down yet nearly eighteen years later!
The order I will be looking at the drivers will be the finishing positions of that race.
The next driver I am going to look at is Alan Morrison who retired from the race second on lap 10.
Morrison was making his BTCC debut having previously won the inaugural Production Class Championship in 2000. He won what was called Class B in 2000, driving for VIP Touring Car Club which was run by Vic Lee Racing in a Peugeot 306 GTi. It was a fantastic achievement for Morrison in his debut BTCC year against the likes of James Kaye and Mark Lemmer.
During 2000, Morrison claimed thirteen class wins, ending the season on 264 points once drop scores were docked, beating nearest rival Kaye by four points. Even if the dropped score system was not in place, Morrison still would have been champion.
Prior to competing in the 2000 Production Class Championship, Morrison had initially started his motorsport career on two wheels, competing in 125cc motorcross, winning the British Championship.
Morrison switched to four wheels in 1997 when he made his car racing debut in the Ford Fiesta championship, remaining in the championship for the 1998 season in which he won. Having won the Ford Fiesta championship he switched to the Vauxhall Vectra Sri Challenge for 1999, finishing second.
This was his last season of car racing before his Production Class triumph in 2000.
After a year sabbatical in 2001, Morrison returned to the championship in 2002 with Honda, who were making their return to the series after taking a year out to develop the new Honda Civic Type-R.
Morrison was joined at Honda by Andy Priaulx, who joined the series full time after a one off appearance in 2001.
It took time for Honda to develop their challenger with early reliability issues hampering their progress however as the season went on the team became stronger as did Morrison, with his results improving consistently.
The peak of Morrison's season came at the the final race of the season at Donington Park where he won his first BTCC race, controlling the race comfortably at the front throughout. He ended the season ninth with 68 points.
He remained with Honda for 2003, now alongside youngster Tom Chilton and Matt Neal, who moved to Honda after a single season with Vauxhall. Honda returned in 2003 a much more potent force, the car a match for Vauxhall who dominated the 2002 season.
Reliability was still an issue in the early stages, as was the team’s pitstop times which, although fast, were not on the same level as Vauxhall. This proved costly at the beginning of the season as for 2003, each race would include a mandatory pitstop, ensuring each driver had to change at least two tyres per race. The speed this stop was completed in was vital as any time lost in the pits would translate onto the circuit, and although Honda were fast, Vauxhall at the beginning of the season were always a couple of seconds faster, ensuring they had the advantage once pitstops had cycled through.
As the year went on, Honda improved this, along with their reliability niggles which ensured both Morrison and Neal could take the fight to the Vauxhall trio of Thompson, Muller and O’Neill at each round.
This came to light at Rockingham for round nine of the championship when Morrison followed Neal home for a dominant one-two for Honda, the Japanese manufacture’s first on its return to the series.
It was a great season for Morrison who finished the season fifth with 125 points, nearly double the amount he accumulated in 2002. Although he was not able to add to his win tally, Morrison did finish on the podium and impressive six times during 2003.
I remember watching Morrison in 2003 where I was lucky to attend five of the meetings, my best memory of him being from Snetterton where the Norfolk circuit hosted the second race of the day at twilight. It was a beautiful sunny day, so sunny in fact that not many people turned up to watch the action, my assumption being they were all down the beach!
It meant the place was rather empty which was great for nine-year-old me as I managed to get the autograph of every driver on the grid during the pitman walkabout, every driver bar one, Alan Morrison! Sadly, the klaxon sounded to mark the end of the pitlane walkabout just as I got to him after getting Tom Chilton’s autograph.
It was a great days racing with Morrison finishing the twilight race second behind teammate Matt Neal, as a big Honda fan this was a fantastic end to the day for me. Luckily next time out at Brands Hatch I managed to get Morrison’s autograph, to his surprise and happiness as he looked at my program.
I still have that program today and I am sure I will never lose it such are the memories it holds.
Sadly, 2003 proved to be Morrison’s last full season in the BTCC, leaving they championship at the end of the year before returning in 2009 for Team Aon in the brand-new Ford Focus, again partnering Tom Chilton.
Unfortunately, the car was underdeveloped at the beginning of the season, with the team unable to test it before the first round at Brands Hatch, meaning the first few rounds were all learning for the team. Results suffered with Morrison only managing two tenth place finishes at Oulton Park before leaving the team prior to the summer break.
This was the last time we saw Morrison in the BTCC, a real shame for a driver who, on his day, was a match for absolutely anyone. I loved watching him as I grew up during the 2003 season, and his return in 2009 was a fantastic moment for me as it took me back to growing up watching him as an eight-year-old.
Despite his lengthy stay away from motorsport, it would be great to see him back behind the wheel of a car, if not in the BTCC certainly something on the TOCA Tour.
Pictures: www.carenthusiast.com, www.stevipedia.co.uk